England the team to beat at Six Nations | Page 2 | Sunday Observer

England the team to beat at Six Nations

7 February, 2021
The Six Nations Trophy
The Six Nations Trophy

That reigning champions England are the team to beat heading into a Six Nations is not unusual but that the entire 2021 tournament is set to be played without spectators makes it different even before it has started.

Rugby Union became used to the concept of behind closed doors internationals when the coronavirus pandemic first took hold last year.

Nevertheless, there will still be something unnerving about the eerie quiet that will greet the players during this weekend’s opening round of matches at what would normally be a trio of sold-out venues, be they the Stadio Olimpico (Italy v France), Twickenham (England v Scotland) or the Principality Stadium (Wales v Ireland).

A year when a British and Irish Lions tour follows the Six Nations would usually add an extra edge, but the impact of Covid-19 means the future of the 2021 series in South Africa remains in doubt. And there were concerns that even a fan-free Six Nations might be scuppered when the French government questioned the tournament’s health protocols. Sports minister Roxana Maracineanu, however, gave tournament officials some welcome news when she cleared France’s participation by saying teams would be “in a bio-secure bubble, like the Tour de France”.

And the need for continued vigilance was emphasised when Wales announced Wednesday they had banned winger Josh Adams for the opening two games of the Six Nations following a breach of health protocols. As for the rugby itself, those expecting England to play a more expansive game may be disappointed.

There was a feeling that England, whose only loss last year came in their tournament opener against France, were not making the most of their resources in playing a forward-dominated, kicking game. (AFP)